Lucinda did not listen to Mr Calvitto immediately. There was a cow bogged in the mangrove mud flats beiow the house. No one in the room thought to rescue it. It was not their cow. They were waiting for Mrs Burrows to leave so they could play cards. "Shouldn't we do something about the cow?" she asked Miss Malcolm, but Miss Malcolm, although she looked at her, did not seem interested in what she said. Lucinda was indignant, but did not know what to do. . . . "Yes, yes," Mr Calvitto was saying to Miss Shaddock, "but it is not a Christian landscape." . . . "God made all the landscape," said Miss Shaddock.. . . Lucinda was impatient that this conversation should continue. It was hypocritical to proclaim your Christianity whilst this suffering continued. And yet she knew what Mr Calvitto meant. She had felt it herself, and her mind drifted to the back creek. . . . Here she had wept when her papa died. Here she had seen two blacks standing as still as trees. She was sixteen years old. She held her breath. There were two more. Another two. This was in the years when the blacks of Parramatta were defeated. Their trunks were brown with mud, cracked like iron bark. She was frightened, not that they would hurt her, it was a bigger fear than that. She tumed and ran, ran across the flat green pasture with plovers shrieking above her, ran out into the sunlight where the yellow sap-bright fence posts, peeled of slippery bark, with round shiny backs and rough straight sides, were lying in a higgledy-piggledy pile on a bed of stringy bruised bark. She knew what Mr Calvitto meant. You could feel it in the still shadows along watercourses. She felt ghosts here, but not Christian ghosts, not John the Baptist or Jesus of Galilee. There were other spirits, other stories, slippery as shadows.[134]

Last modified 1992